Children's home is nothing to do with me, says ex-fraudster
- Credit: SUBMITTED
Bosses behind proposals to open a children's home in a residential house say their plans have nothing to do with the owner of the property, amid concerns that the building is owned by a former fraudster.
Catalin Condurat, owner and director of Loyal Care Ltd, has applied to East Suffolk Council to change the use of a house in Rendlesham - which, according to Land Registry deeds, belongs to former conman Darren Palmer.
When contacted, Mr Palmer, who is now called John Allen, denied any connection to the project - which aims to look after five children who have suffered trauma or other forms of hardship.
He said: “The application is absolutely nothing to do with me. I’m not the person who is opening the children’s home. Did I rent the property out through an agency? Yes. Are the people who are making the application anything to do with me or my business? No.”
He added: "I've moved away from Suffolk and Rendlesham to have a peaceful life. I'm trying to move on with my life.
"My nicking was in 2010. We're in 2021. A long, long time ago. Everyone makes mistakes in life, and people move on and sort themselves out."
He was jailed for 443 days in July 2015 for failing to repay almost £55,000 to eight customers from a luxury car scam which he was convicted of in 2010. The conviction is now spent.
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Concerns were raised by residents about the ownership of the property at a meeting of Rendlesham Parish Council's planning committee on Monday.
They referred to Mr Palmer's "chequered background" and asked: "Does the owner of the property's history come into it?"
Chairman Mike Stevenson told the committee that the project's case officer knew of the owner who, Mr Stevenson said, was known as "Darren Palmer and one or two other names".
Mr Stevenson said he believed ownership of the property would come up "at some point in the debate", though the officer had told him it was not necessarily a planning issue at this stage.
"When there is some knowledge of exactly what the proposal is, I think the ownership and financial arrangements will come under question," he added.
One resident, who lives nearby and did not want to be named, said: "He (Palmer) hasn’t lived here for a while, but we’re pretty concerned about the whole thing."
Mr Condurat, whose firm Loyal Care Ltd has a registered address in High Street, Leiston, says he needs to secure planning approval for the children's home before registering with regulatory body Ofsted.
Outlining his plans, he said: "We’re going to look after vulnerable children who may have suffered from trauma or other events.
"We only hire professionals. This is for the kids, not profits or anything else, it’s just because I want to make a difference and make something really good for the kids.
"That’s why I’m investing profits in the company’s employees and in the children."
Listed as Loyal Care's CEO and sole director, Mr Condurat said he was not aware of the landlord's identity and found out about it later when carrying out risk assessments.
He states in an application form submitted to the council that the property was occupied until February 1, 2021, by the owner.
"He doesn’t live here anymore, and he doesn’t have anything to do with it," Mr Condurat added.
Signs have gone up at the property over the past few days and job adverts went out in March for registered support workers.
Mr Condurat said the business hopes to recruit 12 full-time staff and two part-time workers at Lotus House, the name Loyal Care Ltd intends to use for the home.
Four objections have been lodged on East Suffolk Council's planning portal since the application was validated earlier in April, citing concerns over parking provision, a lack of information about the project.
Rendlesham parish councillor David Moore told last Monday's planning committee: “I don’t think anyone could object in principle to the care of children in our community, surely, that’s exactly what we should be doing. Everyone will tell you it takes a village to raise a child.”
But committee members did raise concerns about a lack of information and parking considerations, and unanimously voted to object to the application on that basis.
East Suffolk Council planners must decide whether to approve the change of use application by May 26.